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02/16/2017 06:01 pm ET

The 8 Most Memorable Island Cocktails To Try On Your Next Caribbean Adventure

Cocktail aficionados rejoice!

While the white sand beaches and turquoise seas of the Caribbean islands always pair well with piña coladas and strawberry daiquiris, locals will tell you that there’s plenty more to happy hour here. Featuring recipes that utilize fresh local ingredients and liquors steeped in a rich island history, raising a toast with a round of authentic Caribbean drinks is as much a cultural experience as a treat for your taste buds.

We’ve joined forces with global cruise line Royal Caribbean to reveal eight cocktails that are sure to be a highlight of your next Caribbean vacation. Cheers to finding your new favorite drink as you explore the islands!

  • 1. Shiggidy Jig: Basseterre, St. Kitts
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    If you wander along the quiet, sun-drenched Timothy Beach on the southern end of Frigate Bay, you will stumble upon a bamboo shack that serves up world-renowned cocktails. Welcome to Mr. X’s Shiggidy Shack. The infamous open-air bar is home to the Shiggidy Jig, a potent fruity rum cocktail that’s a perfect kickstart to your no-worries state of blissful beach relaxation, or what local Kittians refer to as “liming.” Named one of the “25 Best Beach Bars in the World” by Men’s Journal, the Shiggidy Shack is beloved for its island vibe, grilled lobster and fish burgers, epic bonfires and live music. In other words, everything you would want in a beachfront bar!

    After a few sips of the house special, you may start feeling those shiggidy vibes. It’s best enjoyed with live soca music, a blend of soul and calypso, or while watching Mr. X’s fire-eating show. This local beach hangout is also a great spot to catch a “green flash” sunset, a brief but beautiful atmospheric phenomenon that makes the sinking sun appear bright green as it dips below the horizon. With a Shiggidy Jig in hand, the green flash will be even brighter.
  • 2. Green Bonaire: Rincon, Bonaire
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    The Dutch Caribbean island’s local distillery, Cadushy of Bonaire, is the only place in the world where cactus liquor — yes, cactus — is produced. Cadushy is a must-try staple that you can taste in between exploring the quaint markets and snorkeling around Bonaire’s world-class coral reefs. 

    Sample the Green Bonaire, a neon green liquid made from the Kadushi cactus while relaxing under the factory’s ancient Calbas trees. Or take a quick factory tour to learn how a cactus can lead to 80 proof alcohol, which involves a process of cutting the cactus’s skin, drying the inner membrane in the sun for two days, and then combining the strips with yeast and sorghum (Bonaire’s only local grains). The original cocktail recipe made with this unique ingredient blends together Cadushy of Bonaire Liqueur, vodka and triple sec. Try it and then you can boast to friends and family about that time you drank a cactus. As for the taste? Somewhere between sweet and herbal, a neat taste of Cadushy is a flavor profile so unique that you’ll just have to try it yourself!
  • 3. Papa Jac: San Juan, Puerto Rico
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    While Puerto Rico’s capital is known as the birthplace of the pina colada, adventurous travelers should go beyond the traditional choice and opt for another local drink that’s less well known. Consisting of passion fruit juice, sugar-cane liquor and rum, the Papa Jac was born in an Old San Juan jaunt called Don Pablo. For more than 25 years, mixologists at this hole-in-the-wall hangout have served locals and expatriates whose praise of the signature sweet drink has turned the Papa Jac into an island must-have.

    Hailed as a juice box for adults, Papa Jac is sold commercially around the island in pouches. But next time you’re in San Juan, walk past the vibrant colonial townhouses along the cobblestone streets toward Don Pablo to drink the cozy cocktail bar’s Papa Jac in its original Big Gulp-style cup.
  • 4. Ariba: Oranuestad, Aruba
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    A Caribbean trip would be remiss without a taste of the rare, crimson liquor found only in Aruba, the island of twisty fofoti trees and pristine white beaches. Agave plant sap is used for the sweet liqour known as Coecoei, which is hard to find off the island. Experience what makes this 100-proof liquor so good in Aruba’s signature cocktail, the Ariba, which is a synthesis of Coecoei, rum, vodka and fruit juices. It’s served in a tall glass mug to showcase the rainbow effect of the juices’ red, orange and yellow hues, which mingle to revitalize parched palettes. After one swig, don’t be surprised if you find yourself buying bubble wrap to protect those bottles of Coecoei packed in your suitcase.
  • 5. Guavaberry Kir: Philipsburg, St. Maarten
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    There’s no better way to celebrate the clear waters and hot sands of St. Maarten than with a Guavaberry Kir. The cocktail combines champagne and the locally made Guavaberry liqueur, which together form a fitting homage to the island’s Euro-Caribbean roots. Guavaberry liqueur is made from oak aged rum, cane sugar and wild guavaberries grown on the island. The plump, grape-like Guavaberry — not related to guava fruit — grows on trees, ripening into orange and black varieties. Drop by the Guavaberry Emporium in the heart of Philipsburg to taste a piece of the island’s heritage.
  • 6. Antigua Smile: St. John’s, Antigua
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    Black pineapples populate the island of Antigua and are used to garnish the popular cocktail found all over the island’s cosmopolitan epicenter. The unusual fruit, which is actually green instead of black when ripened, are renowned for their distinct sweetness. But the most important ingredient in the Antigua Smile is Cavalier rum, which the Antigua Distillery Limited has been creating on the island since 1947. The clear rum is distilled from fermented molasses and aged a minimum of two years in American bourbon barrels to create the silky, mellow flavor that balances the crème de banana and pineapple juice in the island’s native cocktail. No wonder it’s called an Antigua Smile!
  • 7. Blue Lagoon: Willemstad, Curaçao
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    You may think you’ve already tasted a Blue Lagoon mixed drink before, but it’s an imitation unless you’ve ventured to this UNESCO-protected city of Willemstad, Curaçao. Here, the cocktail’s signature ingredient, Blue Curaçao, is the only one made with the original recipe using the bitter peels of laraha citrus fruit. Combined with lemonade and vodka, this refreshingly fruity cocktail is perfect for cooling down on a hot day. Since this liqueur is not exported, you must visit the charming yellow house that’s a short bus-ride outside of historic downtown Willemstad to discover the distillery that’s been causing blue tongues for about 120 years.  

    At Landhuis Chobolobo, a 19th-century mansion, you can learn about this favorite island alcohol and taste the different cocktail variations created by the in-house mixologists that can’t be found anywhere else. But don’t miss the chance to ask the bartender for an authentic Blue Lagoon, so that you can consider yourself a true connoisseur while relishing Curaçao’s cool sea breeze.
  • 8. Mount Gay Rum Punch: Bridgetown, Barbados
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    With one rum shop per square mile, Barbados’ extravagant cocktail culture is fueled by the liquor associated with images of mythic pirate ships floating in its turquoise bays. In fact, the island hosts the world’s oldest commercial rum enterprise, Mount Gay Distillery, which was founded in 1703. No Caribbean excursion is complete without paying tribute to its rum legacy, which Barbadians originally called “Kill-Devil.”

    Those who make the pilgrimage to Mount Gay Rum Visitor’s Centre, just north of Bridgetown Harbor, can enjoy the creations of the distillery’s master blenders at its Bottomless Rum Punch Station. You can’t go wrong with a Mount Gay Rum Punch, which blends the signature rum with grenadine, lime juice, simple syrup, angostura bitters and fresh grated nutmeg for a satisfying old-timey favorite. Bottoms up!

Explore a new culture and experience the thrill of making lifelong memories with friends and family when you set sail with Royal Caribbean—voted Best Cruise Line for 14 years and counting by Travel Weekly readers. Mix up your next vacation and visit Royal Caribbean to plan your extraordinary adventure. 

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